“It is quite common to hear high officials in Washington and elsewhere speak of changing the map of the Middle East, as if ancient societies and myriad peoples can be shaken up like so many peanuts in a jar.”

― Edward W. Said

"A developing country that wants to develop its economy must first of all keep natural resources in its own hands."
- Deng Xiaoping

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Spatial Turn Edward Soja and Henri Lefebvre By Tugrul Keskin


The Spatial Turn
Edward Soja and Henri Lefebvre

By Tugrul Keskin
Portland State University

The modern understanding of ‘urbanization’ began with the industrialization process in England and later flourished all over Europe at the end of the 18th century as a result of capitalism. Consequently, the city or the metropolis cannot be separated from the capitalist mode of production. This new economic condition and process also changed and shaped social and political conditions, which has resulted modernization, individualism and the most importantly – because of the class subject – space. The term space has a very different meaning in modern societies than it does to primitive and traditional societies, because space as a new modern political and social geography has culminated in the 19 and 20th century political, social and economic life; and has tried to eliminate traditional ways of life. Concepts such as colonialism, the nation-state, metropolis, territorialization, urban life, individualism, suburbs, downtowns, ghettos, and stateless nations (for example the Kurds, Uyghurs and Tamils) are related with space. Malls too, are less or more related with space or the concept of spatial. We can expand the list from politics to individual life as George Simmel attempted to do in his analysis of the late 19 and early 20th century Germany as a comparison between city life and the individual; Simmel tried to understand how these two concepts related to each other and affected one another within the modern way of life as a new urban phenomenon.            

According to Simmel, the metropolis freed man from his taboos or dogmas, which are rooted in tradition, and religion that connected men to community-based life. However, Simmel also argues that man’s freedom and individuality does not really mean that man is really free, but that he is instead more dependent on others. Classical theorists, such as Marx, Weber and Durkheim, all see urbanization as a product of the industrialization that created a more complex societal structure and way of life.

As capitalism has regulated every part of human life in order to create its mode of production through cities, it has also attempted to control social and cultural structures and mentalities from the individual level to that of the societal. In this context, museums, zoos, theaters, entertainment centers and many other structures have also been created as a new space. In the industrialization process, examples of sacred spaces that were created included churches and cemeteries.

In modern times, the 20th century space was treated as death, fixed, the undialectical and the immobile; however, space shouldn’t be reviewed in the context of a static concept, it changes over time and geography. For example, public and private spaces show us that the concept rapidly changes even from the personal level to the societal level. One of the most important observations might be found in the construction of human geographies, the social production of space and the restless formation and reformation of geographical landscape in the metropolis. In Muslim populated societies, space have also been produced and reproduced in the context of the relation between Islam and capitalism, such as Islamic versus secular space - Istanbul versus Ankara (Turkey), Riyadh versus Mecca (Saudi Arabia), Tehran versus Qum (Iran) or newly capitalist cities have been also created like Dubai, or the old versus the new Cairo, and has reformed itself and stays between the secular and religious as a chaotic space. Hence, space also can be seen as the geography of social and political resistance. In this context, There are Mosques in Istanbul, Turkey and some of them are 400 or 300 years old, neighborhood around these mosques are actually a space that Islamic groups and movements or Islamic orders called Tariqahs have used the space for political mobilization following the secularization process in Turkey. This has been a space for resistance. Political groups have tried to control space in order claim their hegemony.  On the other hand, secularists use non-Mosque neighborhoods in order to separate themselves from other neighborhoods. This reminds me of Lefebvre’s understanding of space, in which space is a part of domination and control. Groups or individuals try to control space and form, and reform the concept of spatiality in order to have more power. In this context, space is understood as power; therefore, space is an ongoing process of the reformation of power. Resistance can be seen as external space as Foucault argues, because this is a socially – as well as politically-produced space. However, in the case of museums, space exercises its power through time.  
    
Another example of Lefebvre’s approach can be found in examining HG TV. This TV channel is dedicated to TV shows for home renovations and personal space. This reminds me of hegemony and power of personal space through renovations. This seems to be a reflection of the inability of an individual to exercise his or her power outside and the absence of control over social space, but their homes become their resistance against external space.   
 
In short, space or the metropolis is part of the historical geography of capitalism in which power is employed through the new spatiality of capitalism. Personally, I have read Lefebvre’s book on the Sociology of Marx and I found it very interesting that he is a Marxist, yet is not as rigid as Althusser, and not as light as Foucault. On the other hand, Soja’s view of the spatial, and modern cities cannot be applied to any other parts of world but Los Angeles. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Masters Of Money - John Maynard Keynes


Masters Of Money - Episode 1: John Maynard Keynes 

Masters Of Money - Episode 2: John Maynard Keynes 

Masters Of Money - Episode 3: John Maynard Keynes





Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Consumerism and Its Discontents

By Charles Derber

Truthout | Op-Ed
Monday, 27 May 2013 

A quiet revolutionary struggle is brewing in the minds of the US "millennial" generation, those 80 million Americans between ages 16 and 34. They are wrestling with the fundamental edict of capitalism: Buy and you shall be happy. The millennials have not rejected consumerism, but they have also not embraced it fully. They experience its very real downsides - that also afflict millions of older Americans and go to the heart of capitalist sustainability and morality.

Recent polls by marketing firms and the respected Pew Research Center show strong environmental concerns among millennials, but hint at a broader issue: whether consumerism itself makes for a good life and society. Americans, especially the young, love their computers and sleep with their iPhones next to their pillows, but still worry about the negative sides of consumerism.

Technology itself may be contributing to what commentators have called the "death of ownership" culture, since the issue is not owning a book or television set, but having access through the web. Technology is changing the very idea of ownership. But broader factors - including the very availability of so much "stuff" - are contributing to making consumerism less new, exciting and "cool."

To read more.....


The Problem Is Capitalism

Only radical reforms will solve neoliberalism’s crisis of democracy.

BY Joseph M. Schwartz and Maria Svart

In These Times - May 27, 2013

In “Lean Socialist: Why Liberalism Needs Socialism—and Vice Versa” (May 2013), Bhaskar Sunkara calls for the rebirth of a socialist movement that would work alongside liberals for immediate gains for working people, while simultaneously offering a vision of a socialist society that would extend democracy into the economic sphere. And, at the same time, that movement would fight for the structural reforms most likely to lead towards that goal. We at Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), including our founding co-chair Michael Harrington, have always embraced this strategy. The problem? Socialists became indistinguishable from liberals because the liberals and a strong labor movement disappeared, swept away when “the tides of neoliberalism moved in.” As Barbara Ehrenreich frequently noted in the 1990s, with liberals and social democrats endorsing Clinton’s and Blair’s “kinder, gentler” dismantling of the welfare state, socialists were often the last defenders of the liberal gains of the 1930s and 1960s. But to go beyond liberalism, we absolutely agree with Sunkara that work must be done alongside movement activists, rather than so-called liberal technocrats. Socialists need to teach the liberals to fight once again. But how?

First, we must remind liberals of history. Before social democracy retreated, socialists foresaw the dangers of insufficiently radical reforms. In the 1970s and 1980s, European socialist theorists such as Nicos Poulantzas and Andre Gorz joined Harrington in warning that if the Left failed to socialize control over investment, the corporate drive for profit would lead capital to abandon the “social contract” compromise of the welfare state. Socialist governments in France, Sweden and elsewhere pushed for democratizing investment. But capital immediately fought back, beginning with the CIA-aided overthrow of the Allende regime in Chile in 1973 and continuing with French capital’s strike of the early 1980s. In the face of the onslaught, democracy and old-style liberalism began to crumble. This time around, liberals must recognize the true enemy and embrace radical reforms. Socialists will be there to push them to do so.

To read more....

What’s the point of political philosophy?

by Alex Worsnip

Prospect / May 17, 2013 

It is a near-truism that philosophy operates at a remove from the “real world.” Many philosophers suppose that the answers to questions in logic, epistemology and metaphysics are independent of particular empirical facts about how human society happens to be set up. But what about ethics and political philosophy? How far should philosophers concerned with these areas take into account the messy reality of everyday life?

Not far at all, says one venerable tradition that dates back at least to Kant in the 18th century, and probably as far as Plato. From this perspective, the job of ethics and political philosophy is to work out how things ought to be. This need not be closely related to how things actually are. For the philosopher trying to imagine the ideal society or specify the nature of virtue, engaging in detail with the world in its current state (or in its historical forms) may be unnecessary or even unhelpful.

To read more.....

Russia Warns Obama: Global War Over “Bee Apocalypse” Coming Soon

EU Times on May 10th, 2013

The shocking minutes relating to President Putin’s meeting this past week with US Secretary of State John Kerry reveal the Russian leaders “extreme outrage” over the Obama regimes continued protection of global seed and plant bio-genetic giants Syngenta and Monsanto in the face of a growing “bee apocalypse” that the Kremlin warns “will most certainly” lead to world war.

According to these minutes, released in the Kremlin today by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation (MNRE), Putin was so incensed over the Obama regimes refusal to discuss this grave matter that he refused for three hours to even meet with Kerry, who had traveled to Moscow on a scheduled diplomatic mission, but then relented so as to not cause an even greater rift between these two nations.

At the center of this dispute between Russia and the US, this MNRE report says, is the “undisputed evidence” that a class of neuro-active insecticides chemically related to nicotine, known as neonicotinoids, are destroying our planets bee population, and which if left unchecked could destroy our world’s ability to grow enough food to feed its population.

To read more....

Monday, May 27, 2013

Reading Hayek in Beijing

A chronicler of Mao's depredations finds much to worry about in modern China.

In the spring of 1959, Yang Jisheng, then an 18-year-old scholarship student at a boarding school in China's Hubei Province, got an unexpected visit from a childhood friend. "Your father is starving to death!" the friend told him. "Hurry back, and take some rice if you can."

Granted leave from his school, Mr. Yang rushed to his family farm. "The elm tree in front of our house had been reduced to a barkless trunk," he recalled, "and even its roots had been dug up." Entering his home, he found his father "half-reclined on his bed, his eyes sunken and lifeless, his face gaunt, the skin creased and flaccid . . . I was shocked with the realization that the term skin and bones referred to something so horrible and cruel."

Mr. Yang's father would die within three days. Yet it would take years before Mr. Yang learned that what happened to his father was not an isolated incident. He was one of the 36 million Chinese who succumbed to famine between 1958 and 1962.

It would take years more for him to realize that the source of all the suffering was not nature: There were no major droughts or floods in China in the famine years. Rather, the cause was man, and one man in particular: Mao Zedong, the Great Helmsman, whose visage still stares down on Beijing's Tiananmen Square from atop the gates of the Forbidden City.

To read more.....

China's President Says Ties With U.S. at 'Critical Juncture'

The Wall Street Journal - CHINA NEWS May 27, 2013

BEIJING—China's President Xi Jinping said relations with the U.S. were at a "critical juncture" during a meeting Monday with White House National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, ahead of a closely watched summit in California with U.S. President Barack Obama next month.

Mr. Donilon, during the first day of a visit this week to the Chinese capital, said Mr. Obama was eager to boost cooperation with senior Chinese leaders as the two sides attempt to wade through a range of issues that have chilled ties in recent months.

To read more....

China’s Jia Zhangke Wins Big at Cannes

The Wall Street Journal, May 27, 2013

The Cannes jury awarded major prizes to films by Jia Zhangke of China and Hirokazu Koreeda of Japan, two of Asia’s top directors whose films frequently grace the screens of the world’s major film festivals.

The award for best screenplay went to Mr. Jia for “A Touch of Sin,” which he also directed, about the struggles of ordinary people in contemporary China told through four separate stories. Mr. Jia is one of China’s most provocative filmmakers, tackling sensitive topics such as corruption, the environment and the widening economic gap between rich and poor. The prize also marks Mr. Jia’s first win at Cannes.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

China's pragmatic Middle Eastern surprise

By John Lee

Business Spectator - 14 May, 2013

Chinese President Xi Jinping had the rare opportunity to receive both Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu within days of each other last week. In a move that astounded international diplomats, President Xi issued a ‘four point peace plan’ to Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, while the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a press release days later offering to host an Israeli-Palestinian peace summit in the future.
To be sure, Beijing’s peace plan is unoriginal and based on terms that have already been settled as a precondition to end the decades-old conflict, such as an enduring two-state solution. Neither has the offer to host a peace summit been taken up by either side, with the Palestinian Authority ignoring the offer and Israel subsequently characterising its visit to China as one only focusing on trade rather than politics.
But the likely lack of tangible outcomes from Xi’s peace missive is not the point. China has long stayed out of the politics of third-party conflicts outside its immediate region, preferring to follow Deng Xiaoping’s advice to 'avoid controversy' in non-core issues and ‘keep a low profile’. Its United Nations Security Council behaviour and record, where it allows Russia to take the lead when it comes to rebuffing American and European (British and French) sponsored resolutions, will attest to this. One could not imagine predecessor Hu Jintao seeking a more prominent role in what is probably the world’s most intractable dispute, given that British and then American efforts have attracted at least as much criticism as applause from other governments and commentators. Still, Xi’s unexpected outreach is early evidence that China is recognising keeping a low profile has risks as well as advantages. And as its power and interests grow, it can less afford to allow Western powers to set the agenda for issues away from Asia.

China may start taxing more luxury goods

By Wei Tian in Beijing and Yu Wei in San Francisco

China Daily - May 25, 2013

China may start levying taxes on an increasing number of luxury goods as part of the country's efforts to push forward economic reform, an official with China's top planning agency said on Friday.
More products might be taxed, as part of the country's tax reform plans for this year, said Kong Jingyuan, director-general of the department of comprehensive reform of the economic system at the National Development and Reform Commission.
Kong made the remarks when answering questions about a guideline with the key tasks to deepen economic reforms in 2013, which was published on the central government's website on Friday.
In the guideline, the NDRC pledged to "properly modify the rate and scope of consumption taxes". According to Kong, the changes will be carried out both in terms of rates and structures.
Taking into consideration the increasing national income levels, some products that used to be regarded as luxury goods are now seen as daily necessities and thus will not be taxed as luxury products, he said.

To read more.....

One stabbed as Islamists attack kissing couples

Agence France-Presse May 26, 2013 

ANKARA // Islamists attacked a group of kissing couples who locked lips in a Turkish metro station to protest a morality campaign by the authorities in Ankara, the local press reported on Sunday.

One person was stabbed when about 20 Islamists chanting "Allah Akhbar" (God is Greatest) and some carrying knives attacked the demonstrators on Saturday, the Milliyet and Hurriyet newspapers reported.

About 200 people staged the kissing protest after officials in the Ankara municipality, which is run by Turkey's ruling Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP), admonished a young couple for kissing in the street.

Turkey is predominantly Muslim but staunchly secular, although the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has introduced several measures opponents see as a sign of the creeping Islamisation of the country, including restrictions on alcohol.

Is China 'Pivoting' Toward the Middle East? Author Vali Nasr Says Yes

By: Larisa Epatko

PBS - May 14, 2013

As the United States eases back from involvement in the Middle East, China's influence and economic dependence there grows, author Vali Nasr recently told PBS NewsHour senior correspondent Margaret Warner in a web exclusive interview.
"For China, the Middle East is a rising strategic interest," he said. In fact, he continued to say that the Chinese don't refer to it as the Middle East but as "West Asia."
The U.S. has announced it wants to "pivot to Asia" and focus attention on China and away from the Middle East, Nasr said, but "the problem is just as we are pivoting East, the Chinese are pivoting West."
The Chinese are looking to the region -- from Pakistan to Iran to Saudi Arabia and Turkey -- to help supply their vast need for energy and products, said Nasr, author of "The Dispensable Nation," which critiques the Obama administration's foreign policy. And China considers stability in the Middle East important to its own stability, he said.

To Read more and watch the video......

Monday, May 13, 2013

Against the Brahmins: An Interview with Pankaj Mishra

Interviewed by Wajahat Ali

Boston Review - ONLINE MAY 2, 2013

Pankaj Mishra enjoys upsetting the alleged status quo. The 43-year-old Indian writer has become a leading critic of Western imperialism, globalization, and abuses of power among the political and intellectual upper crust. He charges India’s privileged class with manipulating the democratic process for self-preservation and profit. He publicly blasts peers, such as Salman Rushdie, whom he accuses of choosing to “amplify the orthodoxies of political and military elites.” and Niall Ferguson, whom he condemned as a cheerleader of “neo-imperialist wars.”

Born and raised in Northern India, Mishra was expected to join the civil service after graduating from university. Instead, he moved to a small village in the Himalayas for five years and wrote literary reviews for the Indian press. In 1995, he published his first book, Butter Chicken in Ludhiana: Travels in Small Town India, a travelogue populated by colorful and diverse characters living at the intersection of globalization and Indian tradition.

Since then, he has written numerous essays, edited an anthology, and published a novel and three books of nonfiction, including last year’s From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia, which was just short-listed for the 2013 Orwell Prize, a prestigious British award for political writing.

In From the Ruins of Empire, Mishra crafts an epic narrative interlinking the lives of three 19th-century revolutionary protagonists: the pan-Islamist Jamal al-Din Afghani, Lian Qichao of China, and Bengali writer and Nobel Prize–winner Rabindranath Tagor. Independently, these intellectual upstarts sought to create an empowered Asian identity rising from the humiliation of colonization and Western imperialism. Their attempts left an influential legacy for modern Middle Eastern and Asian communities struggling to achieve political, economic, and intellectual dignity and autonomy in an age of declining and shifting empires.

In this email interview, Mishra discusses modern South Asian identity; the consequences of democracy, modernization, and religious extremism in India; the role and responsibility of intellectuals; and the question of whether global power is shifting from the West to the East.

—Wajahat Ali

Wajahat Ali: Reflecting on recent events, could an argument be made that the disastrous Iraq War and the 2008 financial crisis have shifted the axis of power from the United States to rising Asia?

Pankaj Mishra: I don’t think Asians and South Asians have much cause for celebration if power is indeed shifting to the East due to the disastrous blunders of the United States. One still has to ask, whose power? And to whom is it shifting and who in Asia will it eventually benefit? We Asians have shown ourselves very capable of making the same kind of mistakes. I write from Japan, which has its own history of militarism and imperialism, and where the ghost of nationalism is yet to be exorcised. And we know about South Asia’s inability to defuse its toxic nationalisms or provide a degree of social and economic justice to its billion-plus populations.

WA: Your book focuses on late 19th-century cosmopolitan intellectuals, such as Jamal al din Afghani, Liang Qichao, and Tagore, who were early resisters to Western imperialism and colonialism. Do their lives and ideas inform and relate to the dissidents of today, such as the protestors in Tahrir Square, the revolutionaries in Syria, or civil society groups in Malaysia?

PM: People like al-Afghani, Liang, and Tagore were responding, in another era of globalization, to the growing predominance of a mode of political economy vindicated by the great power of the West and to the increasing violence and suffering of non-Western societies as they scrambled to organize themselves for life in the new, ruthless world of international relations. They were at the beginning of the process that we now seem more clearly in places like Egypt, Syria, or Malaysia—the formation of unwieldy and unviable nation-states over multicultural mosaics, the invocation of religious-ethnic solidarities (Malaysia), or the creation and eventual collapse of pro-Western military dictatorships (Egypt) to sustain and legitimize the rule of local elites. I think al-Afghani in 1890s Iran or Liang in early 19th-century imperial China would have recognized the daunting backdrop to ordinary struggles for freedom and dignity today—the general political fragmentation, the loss of the state’s legitimacy everywhere, and the rise of transnational elites who owe primary allegiance to themselves.

To read more.....

How China is educating Africa

– and what it means for the west  In an extract from a new book, China's aspirational approach to education and investment in Africa is distinguished from the west's focus on basic needs.

By Stephen Chan
The Guardian - May 12, 2013

The da xue (Mandarin: the big study, or the big reading) or dai ho(k) (Cantonese: the big learning) are Chinese terms for a university. In the romance of the "old days", learning was the only way to bypass the class system. China's annual imperial exams allowed even the poorest subject to step outside his poverty and feudal status to become an official. When, later, learning became concentrated in universities, the institutions became prestigious and symbolic. They were the portals of escape.

With this in mind, it is amazing that Chinese aid to Africa has not seized earlier upon the building of universities. The addition of universities was unremarked in the original Chinese proposal for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2008. China pledged a $9bn loan, $3bn of which was to develop mines, over which China entered a 68/32% joint venture involving Sinohydro Corporation and DRC's previously almost defunct Gecamines; and $6bn was for infrastructure, with China Railway Engineering Corporation playing a major role.

The Chinese expected to gain 6.8m tonnes of copper and 620,000 tonnes of cobalt over a 25-year period. However, China would also build huge expanses of road and railway and, along those transport routes, a large number of clinics, schools and universities. It was an unheard-of proposal; it would have transformed development in the south of DRC, with provision for a huge increase in the national pool of trained personnel; and it thoroughly alarmed the west, which saw an exponential increase of Chinese influence in central Africa.

To read more....

Jean Paul Sartre Biography: The Road To Freedom (BBC)



Jean Paul Sartre Biography: The Road To Freedom (BBC)

Martin Heidegger Biography: Thinking The Unthinkable (BBC)


Martin Heidegger Biography: Thinking The Unthinkable (BBC)



Sunday, May 12, 2013

University Graduation and getting a job



THIS IS WATER


Former Guatemala Dictator Rios Montt Convicted of Genocide

By REUTERSMay 10, 2013

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt was found guilty on Friday of genocide and crimes against humanity during the bloodiest phase of the country's 36-year civil war and was sentenced to 80 years in prison.

Hundreds of people who were packed into the courtroom burst into applause, chanting, "Justice!" as Rios Montt received a 50-year term for the genocide charge and an additional 30 years for crimes against humanity.

It was the first time a former head of state had been found guilty of genocide in his or her own country.

Rios Montt, now 86, took power after a coup in 1982 and was accused of implementing a scorched-earth policy in which troops massacred thousands of indigenous villagers thought to be helping leftist rebels. He proclaimed his innocence in court.

"I feel happy. May no one else ever have to go through what I did. My community has been sad ever since this happened," said Elena de Paz, an ethnic Maya Ixil who was two years old in 1983 when soldiers stormed her village, killed her parents and burned her home.

Prosecutors say Rios Montt turned a blind eye as soldiers used rape, torture and arson to try to rid Guatemala of leftist rebels during his 1982-1983 rule, the most violent period of a 1960-1996 civil war in which as many as 250,000 people died.

To read more....

Pakistanis Vote in Landmark Election

By Alex Rodriguez

Los Angeles Times12 May 2013

Islamabad - Millions of Pakistanis braved threats from militants and voted Saturday in national elections that marked the country's first democratic transfer of governance and appeared to put former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on track for a potential return to power.

The elections change Pakistan's political landscape and probably will sideline the Pakistan People's Party, which has ruled the country for five years. But the results are not expected to lead to any major shift in U.S.-Pakistan relations because the country's powerful military still holds sway over crucial issues such as Pakistan's role in peace talks with insurgents in Afghanistan and the country's relationship with its nuclear archrival, India.

Nevertheless, the elections carried heavy symbolic value, bringing the first democratic transition of one civilian government to another. Through coups and political ousters, the country's powerful military has ruled for more than half of Pakistan's 65-year existence.

To read more.....

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Jack Ma of Alibaba

How Is an IPO Like a Marriage? The Billionaire Founder of China's Alibaba Goes Public.

 By ALEXANDRA WOLFE

The Wall Street Journal - May 11, 2013

A week before he was set to step down as chief executive of Alibaba, one of the world's largest e-commerce companies, Jack Ma was enjoying breakfast on an outdoor patio in Santa Monica, Calif. Worth an estimated $4.2 billion, the Chinese entrepreneur may grow even richer if the company he founded 14 years ago goes public. Philanthropy has brought him to California on this trip, but he has no intention of joining the famous billionaires' pledge and donating at least half his money to charity. "This idea of giving your money out was not created by Gates and Buffett. It was created by the Communist Party in the 1950s!" he says with a laugh.

That wasn't the only thing that had Mr. Ma, 48, chuckling. Since he announced his transition to executive chairman in January—he handed over the reins Friday—he has stoked speculation about a potential Alibaba IPO. With an estimated value of about $60 billion, the company could be one of the year's hottest tech offerings if it makes the move.

To read more....

Democracy Is on Ballot in Pakistan

Political Stability and U.S. Alliance Put to Test in Election Saturday Focusing on Economy, Corruption

By YAROSLAV TROFIMOV 

LAHORE, Pakistan

The Wall Street Journal - May 11, 2013

The election here on Saturday is a fiercely contested three-way race that looks poised to solidify the nuclear-armed nation's transition to democracy even as it could further dent fragile relations with the U.S.

The voting will follow the bloodiest election campaign in recent Pakistani history. Taliban militants killed more than 100 people as they sought to influence voters by launching attacks on the secular parties that dominated the outgoing government. They have also warned people to stay away from the polls.

The Pakistan Peoples Party of President Asif Ali Zardari is likely to lose much of its support, with the conservative Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif leading opinion polls. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party of cricket legend Imran Khan, who boycotted the previous election in 2008, is also likely to emerge as a major—and possibly decisive—force in Saturday's vote, analysts and diplomats predict.

To read more....

A look into Cheung Kong, China’s most elitist and expensive business school

Asia Pacific Watch - November 26, 2012

In their latest recruitment ad, Cheung Kong Graduate Business School says, ‘The Business School that Best Understands China’. As the most expensive business school in China, Cheung Kong’s EMBA programs enroll only three types of students: government officials, entrepreneurs, celebrities.  Public curiosity over Cheung Kong started from the gossip column. 61-year-old Wang Shi, owner of China’s largest real estate developer Vanke and one of the country’s best-known entrepreneurs, has reportedly divorced his wife after 30 years’ marriage and fallen in love with an actress 30 years his junior. The news was first broken on Sina Weibo, the country’s most vibrant social media site, by numerous verified users, and immediately spread like wildfire. Within two days, the posts were shared over 45,000 times.  The relationship, on which neither Wang Shi or Tian Pujun, the actress, publicly commented, received harsh judgment from Chinese netizens. For one thing, May-December romance seldom receives any blessing in China, as in this case, Chinese love to presume that Wang is a lustful cradle robber and Tian is a gold digger. For another, with aversion for mistresses and marital infidelity getting increasingly ferocious in China, Tian is publicly accused of being the reason for destroying their marriage.  Evidence? Wang Shi and Tian Pujun apparently met at the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business a few years ago.    

To read more.....

The Death of Truth

By Chris Hedges

Nation of Change - May 9, 2013  

This interview is a joint project of Truthdig and The Nation magazine.

A tiny tip of the vast subterranean network of governmental and intelligence agencies from around the world dedicated to destroying WikiLeaks and arresting its founder, Julian Assange, appears outside the red-brick building on Hans Crescent Street that houses the Ecuadorean Embassy. Assange, the world’s best-known political refugee, has been in the embassy since he was offered sanctuary there last June. British police in black Kevlar vests are perched night and day on the steps leading up to the building, and others wait in the lobby directly in front of the embassy door. An officer stands on the corner of a side street facing the iconic department store Harrods, half a block away on Brompton Road. Another officer peers out the window of a neighboring building a few feet from Assange’s bedroom at the back of the embassy. Police sit round-the-clock in a communications van topped with an array of antennas that presumably captures all electronic forms of communication from Assange’s ground-floor suite.
The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), or Scotland Yard, said the estimated cost of surrounding the Ecuadorean Embassy from June 19, 2012, when Assange entered the building, until Jan. 31, 2013, is the equivalent of $4.5 million.
Britain has rejected an Ecuadorean request that Assange be granted safe passage to an airport. He is in limbo. It is, he said, like living in a “space station.”
“The status quo, for them, is a loss,” Assange said of the U.S.-led campaign against him as we sat in his small workroom, cluttered with cables and computer equipment. He had a full head of gray hair and gray stubble on his face and was wearing a traditional white embroidered Ecuadorean shirt. “The Pentagon threatened WikiLeaks and me personally, threatened us before the whole world, demanded that we destroy everything we had published, demanded we cease ‘soliciting’ new information from U.S. government whistle-blowers, demanded, in other words, the total annihilation of a publisher. It stated that if we did not self-destruct in this way that we would be ‘compelled’ to do so.”
“But they have failed,” he went on. “They set the rules about what a win was. They lost in every battle they defined. Their loss is total. We’ve won the big stuff. The loss of face is hard to overstate. The Pentagon reissued its threats on Sept. 28 last year. This time we laughed. Threats inflate quickly. Now the Pentagon, the White House and the State Department intend to show the world what vindictive losers they are through the persecution of Bradley Manning, myself and the organization more generally.”

To read more....

Should China Try to Feed Itself?

By Bruce Einhorn

Bloomberg Business Week - May 10, 2013

For China’s leaders, there was one problem in an otherwise benign inflation report for April. First, the good news: The consumer price index rose 2.4 percent, about in line with economists’ expectations. While inflation accelerated from 2.1 percent in March, the April figure is still well below the government’s target of 3.5 percent for the year.
So what’s the catch? Food prices. With vegetables getting more expensive, the cost of eating jumped 4 percent last month, compared with an increase of 2.7 percent in March. The rising cost of food could create more difficulties in the coming months, the People’s Bank of China warned yesterday.
The Chinese government is well aware of the political sensitivity of food, which is one reason the country is sticking to a policy that promotes self-sufficiency. The country’s farmers met about 98 percent of China’s demand for grain last year, Vice Minister of Agriculture Chen Xiaohua said at a news conference in March.

To read more....

Friday, May 10, 2013

The American Dream Is Dead; Long Live the New Dream

By Cliff DuRand

Truthout | News Analysis
10 May 2013

The American Dream of upward mobility is dead, thanks to the neoliberal ministrations of capital and government. But a new dream could rise from the mess left by globalization, off-shoring and austerity.
The continuation of the economic crisis of 2008 up to the present has driven home a social trend that has been evident since the late 1970s, the decline of what is usually called "the middle class" and the accompanying American Dream.
The American Dream is the belief that if you work hard, if you are blessed with at least a modicum of ability and have a little luck, you can succeed. That is, you can rise in society no matter how humble your origin to something better in the way of material well-being, economic security, a settled life and social prestige. It is the dream of upward mobility for oneself, or at least for one's children.
As Richard Wolff has pointed out in Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to do About it, this upward mobility was a reality for most citizens of the United States for several generations, from 1820 to 1970. For 150 years, real wages rose. In the quarter century from 1947 to 1973, average real wages rose an astounding 75 percent. But that shared prosperity came to a halt in the mid '70s. In the next 25 years, from 1979 to 2005, wages and benefits rose less than 4 percent. The sustained rise in standards of living had been made possible by a conjunction of historical circumstances, circumstances that began to reach exhaustion by the mid 1970s.

To read more.....

Does the College Major Matter? Not Really

By JEFFREY J. SELINGO

The New York Times, Education - April 29, 2013     

Jeffrey J. Selingo is the editor at large of The Chronicle of Higher Education and the author of “College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students,” to be published May 7 by New Harvest. This post is adapted from the book.

This week, the last of the high school seniors who have yet to make up their minds about where they’re going to college in the fall, will finally put their deposit check in the mail and end the college search process that for some began years ago.
So much time, effort and money goes into picking the right college, but then too many students fail to engage in the process that follows: getting ready for their first year and figuring out what they want to get out of the entire college experience. It’s why some 400,000 students drop out of college each year and why one-third of students now transfer at least once before earning a degree.
One of the decisions you’ll need to make early on — if you haven’t already — is picking a major. Choosing what you want to do for the rest of your life is fraught with anxiety for many students, so you’re not alone if you have no idea what to choose.

Nine in 10 college students say it is important to find a major that is interesting “no matter how practical it is,” according to a survey conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles. Almost as many say that the skills they gain in college will be useful on the job no matter what they major in.
 Majors are also seen as fungible — if you don’t like your field of study, trade it in for another one or add a different major to the one you already have. By the end of their first year, a quarter of all freshmen change their minds about their field of study.
So does the college major matter? I posed that question recently to my roommate at Ithaca College, who like me, majored in journalism. He had known since middle school what he wanted to do — become a television journalist. Now almost 20 years after we both graduated, David Muir is an anchor and correspondent for ABC World News.
He works with plenty of people who do not have journalism degrees. The commonality among them, he says, is that “we all majored in what we were interested in. The curiosity and the willingness to adapt are more important than what the degree is in.”
These are many of the same qualities that employers say, in survey after survey, they want in future workers. Hiring managers complain that they often find today’s college graduates lacking in interpersonal skills, problem solving, effective written and oral communication skills, the ability to work in teams, and critical and analytical thinking. Employers say that future workplaces need degree holders who can come up with novel solutions to problems and better sort through information to filter out the most critical pieces.
The economy is changing at warp speed. Rather than recommend majors of the future, here are four activities to help develop the skills necessary to succeed in the work force of tomorrow. If you focus on these activities, the majors won’t matter as much.

1. Seek Passionate Faculty Members

Finding passionate, engaged professors is critically important in the first year of college, when it is easy to remain anonymous in large lecture classes. Getting to know at least one faculty member well in that year improves the chances that you will get more from your college experience (including a degree).

2. Dive Deep Into a Research Project

Nearly a third of college seniors produce some sort of capstone project, and increasingly students are producing major research projects every year. Studies have found that undergraduate research stimulates critical thinking, gives students a better understanding of what they learned from a lecture, allows them to work in situations with uncertain results, and provides a sense of accomplishment.

3. Go On a Transformative Global Experience

There is growing recognition that overseas study in college helps in the global job market. Those who study abroad often see it as a life-changing experience. In one survey of alumni, it was the most significant aspect of their undergraduate years, ranking higher than college friendships and courses.

4. Be Creative. Take Risks. Learn How to Fail.

Many academics believe students have lost the ability to be creative — to learn through doing, to learn through failing, to learn through just having fun. Be sure to seek out learning environments where you can be creative, try things out, and, on occasion, fail.
It doesn’t matter what you focus on, as long as you “focus on it in a rigorous way,” says Richard Arum, the co-author of “Academically Adrift,” a 2011 book which found that nearly a third of students failed to improve their writing, complex reasoning, or critical-thinking skills after four years of college.
Like the credential itself, the high price of college has made the major a means to an end for students. For many, college increasingly is regarded as a long list to check off — classes to take, experiences to acquire, and a major to declare.
Gaining underlying skills and knowledge is often an afterthought and it shouldn’t be. Spend as much time planning the next four years as you did getting to this point.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Imran Khan fall sympathies could boost prospects in Pakistan election

PTI leader will miss final days of campaigning but may benefit from wave of concern over serious injuries sustained at rally       

Jon Boone in Islamabad    

guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 8 May 2013

Imran Khan's supporters believe the serious injuries he sustained from a fall during a rally on Tuesday night could help his bid to become a major political force, despite the fact he will be hospitalised for the crucial last two days of Pakistan's general election campaign.

On Wednesday, doctors at the hospital where the 60-year-old was being treated said the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) would have to remain in bed for several days to come after falling 4.5 metres (15 ft) from a makeshift lift and damaging his back.

His campaign was supposed to end with a final rally of supporters on Thursday, with polling then taking place on Saturday.

Khan, who sustained three fractured vertebrae and a broken rib, is now unlikely to take part and has ruled out going to vote in his home constituency of Mianwali, in north-west Punjab.

Faisal Sultan, his doctor, said the politician would recover if allowed to rest. He said: "The most important and reassuring thing is that the spinal canal is intact and Mr Khan is in full control of his limbs and body functions. There was no neurological compromise."

Khan has benefited from a wave of public concern and sympathy from supporters and opponents alike, with other leading parties cancelling many campaign events on Wednesday.

To read more.....

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Leave Bad Enough Alone

The United States should forget about intervening in Syria. Asia's what matters.

BY EDWARD LUTTWAK

Foreign Policy | MAY 7, 2013

It is now argued most authoritatively that U.S. President Barack Obama's failure to act decisively to remove Bashar al-Assad's regime from power in Syria is explained by internal divisions within his administration, miscalculations about the balance of power on the ground, and the president's own irresolution. There is another explanation, however: that the Obama administration is showing calculated restraint induced by bitter experience and, even more, by the overriding strategic priority of disengaging from the Islamic arc of conflict to better engage with China.

The all-too-obvious reason to stay out of the Syrian civil war is that the aftermath of dictatorship has already been deeply disappointing in three Arab countries. Tunisia suffers from chronic and sometimes violent instability, Libya is grappling with regional and tribal fragmentation, and Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood has become an almost textbook case in political mismanagement. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy is nearly as authoritarian as his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, much less liberal on social matters and women's rights, and certainly much less effective in supervising the now very badly damaged economy. Having called for Ben Ali, Mubarak, and Qaddafi to go, one can understand that Obama might not be thrilled by the prospect of what comes after Assad.

The less obvious reason for restraint in Syria is the underlying cause of these failures. It must be a very fundamental cause indeed, given the extreme differences between the three countries. Tunisia -- with its quasi-Mediterranean urban culture, decades of secular and stable if authoritarian rule, and substantial homogeneity -- would seem to have the preconditions for democratic governance. Yet it is now ruled by an ineffectual Islamist party that is plainly incapable of restarting the economy and cannot or will not protect secular institutions from Salafi attacks. Libya, meanwhile, is as vast as Tunisia is compact, yet with nearly half the population of its western neighbor, it is a tapestry of heterogeneity that devolves into a multitude of rival tribes, some of which are locked in blood feuds. And then there is Egypt, where it was not the well-established liberal community but the Muslim Brotherhood that won the elections, while a Salafi movement that seeks to import Saudi extremism grabbed some 20 percent of the vote. So what is this underlying commonality then?

To read more.....

Xi Jinping and the Chinese dream

Asia-Pacific Watch - May 4, 2013

In 1793 a British envoy, Lord Macartney, arrived at the court of the Chinese emperor, hoping to open an embassy. He brought with him a selection of gifts from his newly industrialising nation. The Qianlong emperor, whose country then accounted for about a third of global GDP, swatted him away: “Your sincere humility and obedience can clearly be seen,” he wrote to King George III, but we do not have “the slightest need for your country’s manufactures”. The British returned in the 1830s with gunboats to force trade open, and China’s attempts at reform ended in collapse, humiliation and, eventually, Maoism.

China has made an extraordinary journey along the road back to greatness. Hundreds of millions have lifted themselves out of poverty, hundreds of millions more have joined the new middle class. It is on the verge of reclaiming what it sees as its rightful position in the world. China’s global influence is expanding and within a decade its economy is expected to overtake America’s. In his first weeks in power, the new head of the ruling Communist Party, Xi Jinping, has evoked that rise with a new slogan which he is using, as belief in Marxism dies, to unite an increasingly diverse nation. He calls his new doctrine the “Chinese dream” evoking its American equivalent. Such slogans matter enormously in China . News bulletins are full of his dream. Schools organise speaking competitions about it. A talent show on television is looking for “The Voice of the Chinese Dream”.

To read more......

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Is China pivoting to the Gulf?

Dr. Naser Al-Tamimi

Al-Arabiya - April 28, 2013

Many observers have noted recently that China’s foreign policy has turned more assertive than it has been in decades. When it comes to the Middle East, it has expressed this aggressiveness mostly through the veto power it wields in the United Nations Security Council, protecting Iran from crippling sanctions over its nuclear program. Additionally, the Chinese government, along with the Russians, have prevented the UN from sanctioning the Syrian regime.

There are different interpretations of Chinese assertiveness; Charles Grant from the Center for European Reform, recently provided a number of factors to explain the situation: China’s economic growth has surged at a time when the West is in crisis, making China’s leaders more self-confident and less willing to accept Western tutelage. At the same time problems in Tibet and Xinjiang, and perhaps events in the Arab world, have made them feel insecure; the growth of nationalist postings on the Internet has started to influence policy; and the leadership transition makes China’s leaders unwilling to be seen as soft on foreigners. While, Yao Yang, the director of the China Center for Economic Research at Peking University and editor of China Economic Quarterly, wrote in the Financial Times: “After the 2008-09 financial crisis, the US suddenly found that it had to face a more confident China. To them, [the US and EU] China will only be treated as ‘one of us’ after China is fully transformed politically and socially. This discrepancy of beliefs will be a major source of tension between China and existing powers in the coming years.”

To read more.....

China is using up oil faster than we can produce it

By Brad Plumer

The Washington Post - April 29, 2013

Maybe you’ve heard that North America is producing a lot more oil these days, courtesy of fracking, tar sands and other new sources. The Atlantic has a nicely reported cover story on the whole phenomenon by Charles C. Mann. Headline: “We will never run out of oil.”

It’s a great article, but here’s an key bit of additional context. Stuart Staniford has some great charts looking at the rapid growth in Chinese oil consumption over the past few decades. He’s also done a simple extrapolation to see what China’s oil demand would look like if it kept growing at 7 percent annually for another decade — hardly a wild assumption:

To read more.....

E-Books and Democracy

By ANTHONY W. MARX 

The New York Times - May 1, 2013

WRESTLING with my newspaper on the subway recently, I noticed the woman next to me reading a book on her smartphone. “That has to hurt your eyes,” I commented.  Not missing a beat, she replied, in true New York style, “My font is bigger than yours.” She was right.
The information revolution raises profound questions about the future of books, reading and libraries. While publishers have been nimble about marketing e-books to consumers, until very recently they’ve been mostly unwilling to sell e-books to libraries to lend, fearful that doing so would hurt their business, which is under considerable pressure.
Negotiations between the nation’s libraries and the Big Six publishers — Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Group, Random House and Simon & Schuster, which publish roughly two-thirds of the books in America — have gone in fits and starts. Today Hachette, which had been a holdout, is joining the others in announcing that it will make e-books available to public libraries. This is a big step, as it represents, for the first time, a consensus among the Big Six, at least in principle, that their e-books should be made available to library users. 

11 technologies that are going to kill us all

By Gary Marshall 

TechRadar - May 2, 2013

Technology can excite and delight, but of course it can devastate and destroy too. Many of the technologies we take for granted are spin-offs from military programmes, and our governments spend huge sums every year to find new and exciting ways to turn people into chowder. Not all scary tech is military tech, however: as we'll discover, some of the stuff that really gives us the screaming heebie-jeebies is supposed to make the world a better place. So which technologies do in fact pose a threat, and which sound scary but aren't really? Let's find out.

1. Lasers

There's been an enormous gap between what lasers can do in films (go 'pew pew pew' and blow stuff up) and what they do in reality (look cool at gigs), but from 2014 that gap will be gone: the US Navy will begin deploying laser weapons next year aboard the unfortunately named USS Ponce. The systems will initially be used to destroy drones, but clearly it's just a matter of time before they're strapped onto sharks.

To read more.....

Friday, May 3, 2013

What's With the Chinese Communist Party and Slogans?

A brief history of Chinese leaders' words of wisdom.

Matt Schiavenza

The Atlantic - Apr 30 2013

One of the more enjoyable aspects of Chinese leadership changes is the inevitable introduction of a brand new governing slogan. Ever since Deng Xiaoping assumed de facto control of the country in 1978, each successive generation of Chinese leaders has adopted a signature phrase, one that subsequently worms its way into dozens of speeches, policy papers, and other instruments of state propaganda. With Xi Jinping now firmly ensconced into China's leadership, we fortunately haven't had to wait long for his own unique contribution to this Chinese oevure: the "China Dream". 

What does "China Dream" mean, exactly? If you're thinking of a vaguely Sinic version of the American Dream, think again: the China Dream isn't about rags-to-riches and achieving middle-class bliss but instead refers to aspirations for the country as a whole.  The Global Times -- China's most hard-line paper -- claims that it has nothing to do with nationalism, but Xi's own words seem to belie this. Recently, he was quoted as saying that the China Dream is bent on "fulfilling the great renaissance of the Chinese race."

To read more.....

China’s Cyberspies Outwit Model for Bond’s Q

By Michael Riley and Ben Elgin

Bloomberg - May 02, 2013

Among defense contractors, QinetiQ North America (QQ/) is known for spy-world connections and an eye- popping product line. Its contributions to national security include secret satellites, drones, and software used by U.S. special forces in Afghanistan and the Middle East.
Former CIA Director George Tenet was a director of the company from 2006 to 2008 and former Pentagon spy chief Stephen Cambone headed a major division. Its U.K. parent was created as a spinoff of a government weapons laboratory that inspired Q’s lab in Ian Fleming’s James Bond thrillers, a connection QinetiQ (pronounced kin-EH-tic) still touts.
QinetiQ’s espionage expertise didn’t keep Chinese cyber- spies from outwitting the company. In a three-year operation, hackers linked to China’s military infiltrated QinetiQ’s computers and compromised most if not all of the company’s research. At one point, they logged into the company’s network by taking advantage of a security flaw identified months earlier and never fixed.
“We found traces of the intruders in many of their divisions and across most of their product lines,” said Christopher Day, until February a senior vice president for Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ)’s Terremark security division, which was hired twice by QinetiQ to investigate the break-ins. “There was virtually no place we looked where we didn’t find them.”

To read more....

The Versace Harem

A group of Muslim women with tight shirts, bright lipstick, a feminist mission, and total devotion to a creationist guru. 

By Jenna Krajeski

The Slate - Thursday, May 2, 2013

I first agreed to meet Ece, Ceylan, Aylin, and Ebru because I didn't really believe they existed. They host the Turkish talk show Building Bridges and had recently gotten some attention, but not for the interviews. The women look astonishing. They are mostly bottle blonds, save for Ece, who has raven hair. Neon lipstick gives their lips a whole extra dimension. They coordinate outfits. At one of our meetings, they wore brightly colored satin pantsuits and T-shirts with designer brand names that stretched over their chests. What they talk about on Building Bridges—interfaith dialogue, women and Islam, the greatness of Turkey—isn't particularly sexy, but their outfits are designed to make up for that. They are also devout Muslims—conservative, even—a supposed contradiction that is also the show’s allure.

Guests often appear—usually by Skype—with their eyebrows arched in the manner of a serious person certain he is the victim of a practical joke. But they proceed. The women sweetly dare the guests to suggest the hosts are anything but what they claim to be—activists, political commentators, Muslims—because of how they dress. During one interview, which I observed in the studio, Ceylan right away asked a German diplomat if a "true religious education" could "combat bigotry."

The reaction in the Turkish media and among viewers of the show has been mostly centered on the weirdness of the program and its hosts, and the weirdness runs deep. A9, the television channel that broadcasts Building Bridges, is owned by Adnan Oktar, a once-prominent Turkish theologian known best for his ardent preaching of Islamic creationism and, more controversially, for the strong allegiance of his followers. The women of Building Bridges are among his cohort, unabashed in their allegiance to him, and his reputation is their reputation. Oktar has lately faded from the public eye after a series of controversies. The most calamitous of these was a book called The Holocaust Deception,  published in 1996 under Oktar's pen name, Harun Yahya. Oktar vehemently denied having written it—and to me when I asked him—but the association lingered.

To read more.....

The world's richest city

With the rising cost of living, locals are starting to struggle to keep up, so is the party set to end?

Al-Jazeera - 03 May 2013 11:13

China may soon be the birthplace to half the world’s billionaires but Singapore - the world’s richest city - is where they go to play.

Some of the rich and famous who have moved to the tiny Southeast Asian island republic include Indian telecom tycoon Bhupendra Kumar Modi, Chinese movie superstars Gong Li and Jet Li, New Zealand billionaire Richard Chandler, and famed US investor Jim Rogers.

One in six households in Singapore have a net worth of $1m, reflecting the flow of wealth eastwards as the centre of global economic activity shifts to Asia.

With low taxes, a reliable, corruption-free government and protective private banking laws, the world’s ultra-rich are flocking to make Singapore home, giving it the highest percentage of millionaire households in the world.

To read more......